November 22, 2016

Wyden, Coons: DOJ Dodges Senate Questions About Government Hacking

Washington, D.C. – Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Chris Coons, D-Del., are deeply disappointed with the Justice Department’s failure to substantively answer many of the questions by 23 U.S. lawmakers about a new expanded mass hacking authority that is set to go into effect next month if Congress does not act. 

“The American people deserve answers to these very basic questions about how our government intends to hack thousands or millions of personal devices with a single warrant,” Wyden said. “The Justice Department’s failure to answer these questions should be a big blinking warning sign about whether the government can be trusted to carry out these hacks without harming the security and privacy of innocent Americans’ phones, computers and other devices.”

The Justice Department’s response, which is available here, did not provide details about how the government will uphold fundamental protections, including:

  • How to prevent “forum shopping” by federal prosecutors when seeking a single warrant to hack thousands or millions of devices;
  • Whether and how the government plans to “clean” devices belonging to innocent Americans, including under what legal authority;
  • How the government would prevent further damaging a compromised device already hacked by both a criminal and the government;
  • Whether having your device  “damaged,” and connected to a crime, is probable cause to search it.

Wyden and a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers have introduced the Stopping Mass Hacking (SMH) Act, which would block the Rule 41 amendments from taking effect. Sen. Coons and Sen. Steve Daines R-Mont., along with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have introduced a bipartisan bill to delay the rule changes for 6 months, co-sponsored by Wyden.